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Posted August 21, 2011
Reviewers want to write good reviews, really. In this CD of South Korea piano music from the Late 20th C, the pianist Klara Min makes a valiant effort and she is definitely a gifted performer (She's also very attractive which is prerequisite for all new classical artists). But I have two major complaints, which make me sound crankier than I really am. First of all, is this Korea music? Sounds more like a Second Viennese School epidemic swept over South Korean-only the North Koreans would have the good sense and army to keep this music out of their country. Not only (in general), is the music completely lifted from 1920-30's Germany, it is entirely derivative of that style, AND is also dated in that style-being at least 20 years behind the proto-serialist curve. My second complaint is Klara Min is not the player for this music-although some aspects she does very well. Her whole approach is too politely Mozartian, her playing lacking the exaggerated tempos, dynamics, and phrasing needed to bring this already dying music alive.
The first piece is by Pagh-Paan (1971 ) and I swear I'm listening to the Schoenberg Piano Concerto, 30 years earlier. The next piece is the famous Isang Yun (1958) with more Schoenberg/Webern barnburning derivativeness.
Finally, in the next piece, "Interludium "by Isang Yun (1982) there's more musical interest, as Korea no longer sounds like a satellite of Weimar Germany. There's More messiaenic /French pianism and a more post-serial /post modern approach. This style also includes a Stockhausen/Asian neo-simplicity and as well as 19th C /French pianistic gestures. Formally it pits more reflective spacious sections with violent passionate ones. Her best playing throughout the CD is in the slow reflective stuff -just a simple repeated motiv -it's very effective. She brings a kind of delicate, brittle vulnerablness to her playing-which is great for Mozart. But this music also needs extreme playing -flawless transitions and violence where the piano timbre turns to white heat.
The next piece is Sukhi Kang (1966) and we're back to very sparse webernishness with slightly more tonalized rows. She does do the row melodies with exquisite shaping. Sadly this music is very much from the 1930's sound world --other major composer in the 60's were already stretching serialism to its death kneel conclusion.
The penultimate composer is Uzong Chae (2003 )and as Ms. Min has chosen 3 excerpts from a larger piece, it's difficult to know the composer's vision. It's like still photographs of a feature length movie. This is regrettably the only 21st c piece stylistically --coplandesque motiv (Billy the Kid) over multi-layered tonality.
Finally, the last piece by Chung Gill Kim (1982) is again excerpts-so it's difficult to know the context of the music-least it's not serial. There is some really interesting 'stare music' (best music on the CD and more of her best playing) that repeats the same patterns in the left and right hand.---this kind of playing requires a deep intuitive understanding of the shaping of the long patterns. It suddenly occurred to me there a kind of Russian folk quality present-- I've never thought how close the countries are.
In conclusion, unless you are researching the spread of the disease of academic serialism through the civilized world, probably this CD is not for you. To Klara Mins' credit, she brings a clear and sincere approach.